Guest Blogger: Surviving Finals Week

Many students are entering finals week in the weeks to come.  Dr. David Sortino has offered up some great suggestions for parents and students to get through this week.  So I am turning this blog over to him.  Thanks David! 

And Remember, It’s Only a Test!
by Dr. David Sortino

With finals week approaching for most middle and high school students, here are some suggestions about how students can improve their test taking skills or strategies. We need to realize that doing well on a test is not based solely on the student’s ability to recall information, but also on his/her knowledge about test preparation.

For example, the obvious and one of the most important strategies is to review regularly course content from beginning to end. This is critical. The earlier you review, the less you forget. Moreover, studies about learning and memory show that you will remember most information at the beginning and end and forget the middle. Reviewing the material will keep beginnings, middles, and ends current. Also, ask your brain how it likes to remember and it will probably say “review and review and review.”

Another important strategy is to learn the material in chunks or what learning specialists call “chunking.” And always remember the brain responds best to organization and “chunking” supports good organizational skills.

The next obvious point is to think about what your teacher considers most important. We all know teachers have certain interests; therefore, their particular interests could be on the test.

Know vocabulary, special terms, or formulas for the type of test you expect. You would not expect to prepare a meal without knowing the recipe’s language, so learn the test’s language.

Form questions about the test and see if you can answer them. The more you practice, the more you are duplicating the test situation, which could eliminate test anxiety and/or performance anxiety. Professional athletes do this all the time — it is called visualization. Further, it helps if you close your eyes and visualize the test questions and answers. Try and see yourself going through all the emotions of taking the test.

Study end-of-chapter questions. This will reinforce the theory of beginnings, middles and ends. Also re-read, review summaries, notes, outlines and previous assignments. Furthermore, compare your notes with a friend. The notes are often only another version of the test.

Recite specific facts to yourself. You can do this when walking, driving a car, or riding a bike. This strategy ties in with multiple intelligence theory and learning styles. That is, active and kinesthetic learners study best when they can use their bodies to learn or express their intelligence.

Get a good night’s sleep — it is critical for successful test taking. Some of us are morning, afternoon or evening people. If you stay on a schedule, you can learn to regulate your biorhythms or cycles supporting your physiological, emotional, or intellectual well-being or prowess.

Last but not least — eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Again, most adolescents eat at all times of the day or nothing at all, which is why most nutritionists believe adolescence is the unhealthiest period of our lives. In short, the brain is an engine that needs to run on protein. Find a diet that you like and stick with it. Good luck and remember, it’s only a test!

*Dr. David Sortino is a cognitive psychologist and currently Director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents, and students. Dr. Sortino can be reached at or 707-829-8315


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